Thana Faroq How Shall We Greet the Sun

 

I am quite taken with the text in Thana’s excellent new book, How Shall We Greet the Sun, published, like her last book, I Don’t Recognize Me in the Shadows, by Lecturis. I am uncertain exactly how she is engaging with the concepts of sentimentality and nostalgia, being that she seems to be using them as a ploy, but also wants to negate them, which is fascinating. Having spent time with the notions of nostalgia and sentimentality, which Thana outlines as finding comfort in the past through memories, however inept, I find myself arguing that nostalgia should be engaged with carefully. I believe we want to dismiss nostalgia and sentimentality as we have been told they rely on false memories, and are glazed over ways of recognizing our past through the good moments and not the tedium of what surrounds them. Nostalgia is a particularly abhorrent gesture in the annals of contemporary art from what I can piece together, so I worry that its loss or embattled nature belies something more unsettling and that its dismissal a conditioning to be wary of.

 

 

I find that we too quickly dismiss the qualities of endearment found in such pursuits. I find that there is a specific humility in reaching back to times that were sweet and comfortable without invoking a dismissive quality in art criticism that I believe is a contemporary ruse to remove emotion and dismiss the past altogether unless it is impinged on political dialog or trauma alone. Of course, one has to read this territory without the blinders on. To be nostalgic is not necessarily to dismiss all the terrible or mundane, but it is a way to root some of our experience in positive memories, however frayed or inconclusive. In keeping with nostalgia, we keep alive that part of ourselves that contains those molecules of hope, which drives the engine of our being forward.

 

 

This constant call to end the honey-dipped past via the qualities of sentimentality or nostalgia provokes a dire parallel to call for the end of the future and despite the challenges associated with nostalgia, it should be cautioned to resist cauterization. We must hold out the imperative call to sterilize our glorified feelings and memories, to desensitize our ourselves to levity. My experiences are clearly different than Thana’s, though I do not believe that either experiences are bereft of more extensive capacity for human understanding. Perhaps I am misunderstanding and this book reflects Thana’s similar struggle as a refugee living in The Netherlands, displaced from her home in Yemen, with each detail in the text conjuring up a struggle to remember Sexy Middle Eastern Plates and other accoutrements of a past now closed off to her. Perhaps this is her struggle against the tyranny of the present, the harsh reality of displacement, the struggle to make the new and old fit into the same experience of being Thana.

 

 

Thana’s background and the impetus for this book, the smart follow up to I Don’t Recognize Myself in the Shadows has, at its base, a dialog regarding Thana’s position as a Yemeni refugee, living in the Netherlands. With this statement, I feel it is fair to clarify the idea of nostalgia. Thana was not given a a choice. She left when she could to the Netherlands in a political act of survival from a country under the duress of war; a war manufactured and aided by the government where I was born. That she finds the concept of nostalgia difficult to work with is not difficult to understand. It is an act of emotional survival. I understand that for her, to sanitize the emotional is to accept and provide mental munitions for the war of those experiences of her exile. to dwell on what was ripped from you is difficult territory indeed. It belittles the present-tense situation and you can truly never go home with the same understanding again in the future. Yet, I would argue that what came before should be held, even when it is no longer real.

 

I would proffer only that at some point, all we are is made up of memories, many of which became memories through emotional entanglement with the moment and our loved ones, and the ground under our feet. We must be careful what we sacrifice at the behest of other’s poor intentions. Lest this be misread as a lecture to Thana which I am in NO position to do, I see it as rather a common enabling of human aspiration to fight the good fight. To paraphrase Conan O’Brien, All graves go unattended eventually. We must struggle with our memories good and bad, and keep them dear, for they constitute a large part of persona and relationships, no matter how distended they may seem in the present. We should try to avoid their betrayal, as to betray them through doubt is an act of self-castigation.

 

 

How Shall We Greet the Sun is an important work. Thana’s continued work with other refugees in The Netherlands is critically valuable. It shows solidarity from the position of direct experience. Having spoken to Thana for Nearest Truth I remember her voice as sensitive, caring, and personal. That she uses her voice, both photographically, and in action, to highlight the struggle of others is exceptionally significant as it qualifies her position as insider looking in and makes obvious strides in the right direction of how to address the political moment, but also how conceive of the future in a world where the terror of never-ending war continues to exact a toll both socially and psychologically on masses of people forced under tyranny to be part of the twenty-first centuries most tragic act, that of mass displacement.

I highly recommend paying attention to Thana and her work. Besides being elegiac and from the first-person point of view of political experience, it seeks to disseminate emotional concern, care, and does so wrapped in an elegant book designed by Sybren Kuiper. The questions it raises are significant, both in term of care and very real  political motivations.

Kimiya Left her home Iran 4 years ago, currently a refugee in the Netherlands. photo was taken in the Hague the Netherlands

Thana Faroq

How Shall We Greet the Sun

Lecturis

Posted in Contemporary Photography, Documentary Photography, Europe, Family, Middle East, Other, Photobook, Photography - All, Photojournalism, Politics, Reviews - All, Reviews - Photobook and tagged , , , , , , , , , .